The Alley Dwelling Authority (ADA) and the Federal Works Agency (FWA) funded the construction of the Syphax Houses in Washington, DC in 1942.
The Syphax Houses were located at 1st and R streets SW, and it does not appear that any of the original homes still exist. Today, the DC Housing Authority operates “Syphax Gardens” at P and Half streets SW, one block northeast from where the original Syphax homes were located. (“Syphax” is the surname of a prominent African American family from Virginia, with family ties to Martha Washington.)
The ADA was one of the earliest New Deal initiatives to provide better housing for low-income Americans. It replaced unsafe alley dwellings in Washington, DC with more modern and affordable houses and apartments. The ADA existed from 1934-1943 as a federally controlled special authority. It then slowly evolved into today’s DC Housing Authority, an independent agency of the DC Government.
With the advent of World War II, the ADA was enlisted to work alongside the FWA to provide housing for defense workers (using Lanham Act funds). Syphax Houses was one of those projects.
Report of the National Capital Housing Authority, For the Ten-Year Period 1934-1944, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1945, available on Hathitrust (accessed July 14, 2020).
“Syphax Gardens,” DC Housing Authority (accessed August 11, 2020).
Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on August 17, 2020.
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